14 June 2009


I don’t know who is responsible for the weekend and style sections of the Wall Street Journal, but they reflect a kind of mediocre liberalism that is at variance with the traditions of the paper. The weekend edition often contains really stupid “essays” of poor quality and shallow themes. One recently maintained that Obama is the most literate president since Lincoln. This weekend there was an essay on how the US might break apart into sectional republics favored by fringe independence groups, the distribution of which was not even well reasoned. There is nothing original in this. A Russian writer came up with a fanciful scheme about how the US might break apart and largely be absorbed by foreign countries, based upon little more than wishful thinking. Anyone can fantasize about regional divisions and the various configurations a dismembered US might take. There may even be some logic to some form of “independence,” should irreconcilable differences arise.

However, what is ignored in these schemes is the constitutional safety valve built into the country. It is called federalism. Under ideal conditions considerable autonomy is allowed to the states; in fact the constitution says that all powers not explicitly stated in the document are reserved to the states. There is no question that the federal government has usurped vast powers that were never attributed to it. However, this is not irreversible, and there can be a healthy balance between state and federal power. True diversity would allow for differences by region, where many of the salient issues of the day might be mitigated. For example, the case for or against gun control will vary dramatically between say Idaho and New York City. Abortion could be prohibited in some states and be legal in others. Then individuals have the choice to live in places where they are most culturally comfortable. This indeed is how thing should have evolved, and the restoration of federalism is the best hope for continuing.

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